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Understanding Open Source Software Development

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Understanding Open Source Software Development


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  • Offers the first serous & rigorous treatment of the subject.
  • Offers a comprehensive analysis of the methodological, technological, economic, and psycho-social dynamics of OSS.
  • Assumes no previous knowledge of OSS on behalf of the reader, and provides both formal and functional definitions of OSS and the related term, Free Software.
  • The book is supported by a frequently updated online resource centre.


  • Copyright 2002
  • Pages: 224
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-73496-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-73496-6

Open Source Software Development offers the first serious (and academically rigorous) study of the OSS phenomenon. The authors examine several key aspects of OSS, for example:

Definitions of OSS and Free Software, including a comprehensive guide to both OSS and non-OSS software licences.
Profiles of key OSS products, projects, companies and organisations.
Analysis of the technological motivations for OSS development, with explicit reference to the possibility of OSS addressing the "software crisis."


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Sample Content

Table of Contents

a. Why Study Open Source Software?
i. The Software Crisis
ii. Market Penetration/Industrial Buy-In
iii. Compelling Theoretical Issues
b. How to Use the Book
i. Intended Audiences (Course-based, Research-based, Professional)
ii. Online Supplements (OPEN reSOURCEs, Contacting the Authors)
iii. Structure of the Book
Section One: Background
1. Overview of Open Source Software
2. The History of Open Source and Free Software
3. The Landscape of Open Source Software
4. Deriving an Analytical Framework
5. Characterising Open Source Software
6. The Open Source Software Development Process
7. Open Source Software Development Tools
8. Technological Motivations for Open Source Software
9. Economic Motivations for Open Source Software
10. Psycho-Social Motivations for Open Source Software
11. When (and Why) Open Source Fails
12. Challenges and Opportunities: The Future of Open Source Software
Appendix: Recommendations for Researchers


This book marks the end of the beginning in our understanding of Open Source development. Until it appeared, all the attempts at a really comprehensive description of the phenomenon had come from Open Source hackers like myself, theorists operating from within the culture we were describing.

We had the advantage of knowing our ground, but the disadvantage of knowing it perhaps too well. There are undoubtedly good questions we would never have thought to ask. That's why I've hoped from the beginning that an analytical literature about open source, independent of the Open Source community itself, would evolve.

While other outside analysts and academics have tackled specific subtopics, Joe Feller and Brian Fitzgerald have given us the first book-length attempt that I am aware of to marshal approaches from multiple disciplines (software engineering theory, sociology, business analysis) into a portrait of the whole.

This book is not the last word; last words are about dead things, and Open Source development is quite lustily alive, But it is an important step along the way, answering some questions and raising others that will continue to be live and fruitful research topics.

Welcome to the conversation!

Eric S. Raymond




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